Giles was the only one who managed to keep a level head after they all realized they had been compromised. Everyone else was positive that at any minute, someone was going to break the door down and they were going to be in the hands of the enemy --- which enemy was the only question they had in mind.
Harry was afraid too--- whether it was Faith or Hermione he was more frightened for he didn't know---- but he knew that the muscle, half the brains, and almost all of the leadership was in the hands of the Mayor. Which probably connected them to just about every evil force on both sides of the Atlantic.
"This is Buffy and Faith, right?" Amy pointed out. "How many times have they faced down these kinds of odds?"
"They're going to be fighting at least one thing they can't kill," Harry reminded them. "God knows how they'll handle things if Voldemort shows his face."
Willow in the meantime was dwelling on something else. "They knew we were watching them," she told them. "Which means they know where we are."
"There's no reason to think that," Giles replied. "It's far more likely that the Mayor knows that you're working with us. Which means that in a little while, he'll probably start tearing this town apart to find us."
"Like I said, they know where we are, or they will soon enough," Willow was trying hard to think. "We need to do something to keep them busy."
"Part of being a Scooby is that you have to be bait," Xander sounded like he was trying to do the same ---- which, as they knew, wasn't the easiest thing for him "But how does that help them?"
Giles looked at his watch. "It's just past three," he told them. "Assuming that the time on Harry's vision was correct, Voldemort has safe passage here for another seventeen hours. We just need to keep him distracted. And we know someone who can do that." He walked over to Amy's phone.
Willow seemed to get it first. "Giles, are you sure about this?"
"Not particularly," he admitted. "But our options are getting rather limited. If nothing else, my people are distracting."
"They'll be torn to pieces by whatever the Mayor and Voldemort have planned," Harry argued out.
"What's your point?" Xander asked.
Harry shrugged. "I just thought it should be said out loud."
In truth, Harry was more bothered by this than he was willing to let on. The Watchers had struck him even before this as not particularly worthy of salvation. But the idea of sacrificing their lives as though they were no more than pieces on a chessboard struck him as the kind of thing Voldemort or the Council itself would do. Even knowing that this was war, after all, didn't make him feel much better.
Hermione and the Slayers lives hang in the balance, he reminded himself. Hold on to that.
"What do you think is the next move?" Ron asked Harry. All jocularity had disappeared from the red-hair boy's voice. Replacing it was that of a soldier.
"You're asking me?" Harry was a little shocked.
"I don't know anyone else who's been inside the Dark Lord's head. Literally."
To his surprise, Harry found that he could think about this rationally ---- as sane as anyone could be who’d seen inside the head of Tom Riddle. "Voldemort knows that he's over-matched in Sunnydale," Harry began slowly. "And Giles is right about there being an issue of time. So he's not going to bother with hurting the Slayers. Hell, at this point, I'm probably a secondary consideration. All his energy is going to be focused on finding the cup and getting out as fast as possible. So we have to get it first."
Willow looked a little upset about how coldly they were considering this. "What, we're not even going to try to rescue our friends?"
"Oh, we're going to save them," Harry assured them. "Frankly, I'm inclined to agree with Amy that they aren't going to need much help. But still, we're going in. But we're going to have to divide our efforts a bit, and find the Horcrux while we're at it."
"Do you think that those black-ops guys know about it?" Xander asked.
"I'd be surprised if they even knew what a Horcrux was, much less that they have one," Harry reasoned. "If I had to guess, it's in one of two places: in the sewer drain where Angel stashed it, or in Spike's possession."
"So the hope for saving the world may rest on Spike being careful?" Willow asked. "Oh, we are so doomed."
"Maybe not," Xander countered. "I didn't hear the entire conversation that was going on, but am I right in thinking that Spike doesn't like Voldemort any more than we do?"
"That's a safe guess," Harry acknowledged. "Of course, Spike and Drusilla could be holed up anywhere---"
"The factory," Willow and Xander said simultaneously.
Both Harry and Ron blinked at this. "How do you know---" Harry started.
"It's where he hid the last two times he came to Sunnydale," Willow told them. "Spike may be many things, but when it comes to where he hides out, he is nothing but predictable."
"Let's say you're right, and that he has the cup," Ron asked. "You think that we have enough power to take him and Drusilla down.?"
"If he was as reasonable, and I can't believe I'm using that word to describe Spike," Xander told them. "It might not even come to that. He might want this Horcrux as leverage, but I think the idea of putting one over on Lord Voldemort might just make his century."
"And Drusilla?" Willow asked. "She's crazy, and she might kill us just for fun."
"Spike's always been able to keep her in check," Xander sounded less sure of this than he had a moment earlier.
"Let me worry about that," Harry replied. "What we need to do is get to her before her distant relative gets let off the leash."
Giles returned. "I just finished talking with Quentin Travers, head of the Watchers. I told him that as a result of his actions, both Buffy and Faith were being kept prisoner by one of the greater evils near the Hellmouth."
"You sure it was a good idea to even tell him that much?" Harry asked.
"It was the only possible move to arrange a public meeting with the Council's lackeys. We're scheduled to meet at the Bronze in an hour."
"Meeting with him on our own territory," Xander said thoughtfully. "It's not much of an edge, but it's probably the best we're going to get."
Harry looked at Amy, realizing he'd barely talked with her for the last hour. "Do you know enough magic to create a public distraction?"
Amy actually looked a little sheepish. "They did tell you about how come I owe Xander?" she asked.
"Without hurting a lot of innocent bystanders?" Harry continued.
"You're gonna have to give me more than that," Amy countered.
"We need something that only the Sunnydale police can handle," Ron said thoughtfully. "Right?"
Amy seemed to get what was being implied, and looked at Xander. "Gangs on PCP in broad daylight?"
"Probably do the trick," Xander assured her. "We'll probably need a lot of them."
"That I can manage."
Not for the first time, Harry wondered whether they had guessed correctly as to whom the powerful wizard was. Shrugging his concerns off for the moment, he turned to Willow. "You can find this factory---?"
"I was held prisoner there a couple of times; I know how to find it," Willow replied. "But who's going to help Buffy and the others?"
"We are," Harry assured her. "But first things first. We find Spike, and see if he is open to this deal. We've got less than an hour to get him to see our point of view."
"Um, you've met Spike, right?" Willow argued. "Him and reason, two kind of unmixy things."
"Which is why he's going to say yes even if he says no," Harry turned to Giles. "You can do this?"
"What's the plan?" Ron asked.
"We're going to finally find out if the Imperium spell works on vampires," Harry told them bluntly.
If Ron was at all surprised by this, he didn't show it at all. "You sure that the two of us can pull it off?" he asked
"No," Harry said honestly, before turning to Willow. "But I'm hoping the three of us can."
She let her shock appear. "Um, never cast it in my life, and not sure I'd be comfortable doing it even if I could?" she argued.
"Hopefully, it won't come to that." Now Harry was lying to her. "But we've just about run out of time, and we're going to need his help."
"Spike doesn't help!" Willow reminded them. "Even when he actually does, he doesn't. I don't even think magic could change his mind."
"Trust me," Harry said with a confidence he didn't really feel, "this'll work."
Considering how many churches, cemeteries and underground lairs there were in Sunnydale, Harry was rather surprised that there was only one factory. Of course, the fact that it happened to be a burned-out husk would've made it easy to find as well.
He was just as surprised to see that nobody appeared to be standing guard. Then he realized that it was still two hours before nightfall, and that even in Sunnydale, it would probably be suspicious to have police guarding a building that had stood unoccupied.
Willow was the only one who was notably nervous as they approached the building. "You had better have read this right," she told them. "And you had better be quick on the trigger with those wands. "
"You didn't show any of these nerves around Angel," Ron pointed out.
"Angel isn't crazy or high-strung," Willow pointed out. "Also, soul, remember? That's not something I can see either of these two ever getting."
"We've got your back, Willow," Harry tried to assure her.
"Yeah, with these guys, you've got to watch your front," she reminded them. "And I don't have enough eyes for that."
Harry realized Willow had a right to be skittish, but he was also pretty sure she was stalling. "Come on, let's just get this over with."
He rapped on the door loud enough for it to echo in the empty air, then approaching with his wand facing outright. Ron did likewise. Willow tried to do the same thing, but by the time she remembered that she had no wand, the door was yanked open.
"Clip, clop, clip, clop. Who's been tapping on my bridge?"
Even in broad daylight, there was still something genuinely terrifying about Drusilla’s gentle whisper. Harry lowered his wand for a split second, long enough for two very large hands to reach out, grab him by the collar and yank him inside.
Ron, whose reactions were a lot faster, cast an Incendiary spell while Harry's eyes were still adjusting to the lighting in the factory. But these vampires were smarter, and both managed to dodge the ball of flame. Fortunately, neither of them were Drusilla or Spike, or this would've been over before it started.
"The little lion has lost his pride. Does he want mommy to kiss him and make it all better?" Drusilla was now far too close to Harry's neck for his liking.
"Now, now, luv. You know how you get when you snack between meals." Harry had never been so grateful to hear Spike's voice. Then he realized what he had just thought, and felt like a fool. "Especially when I believe he's come here to make that deal we were discussing before we were so rudely interrupted."
Spike looked at the other two vampires for a moment before snapping his fingers. They retreated. "Honestly didn't think that I'd be seeing you again," he told them.
"You obviously know why we're here," Harry began.
"You mean that little cup that Nancy Boy went to such trouble to keep safe? Yeah, I figured you'd come looking for that."
"Do you actually have it?" Ron demanded. "Otherwise, this conversation is a waste of time."
Spike looked at the other vampires, and gestured for them to follow him. When the three of them started moving, however, he held up his hand. "Just you, Mr. Potter. I don't particularly care for being surrounded."
Harry wisely withheld from saying that he clearly didn't care if he did it to other people. "I'd like to see it before we go any further," he told them.
"If you'd been through as much as we have to get it, you'd want to make damn sure it wasn't an illusion too," Harry reminded him.
Spike walked over to a small leather case, opened it, and removed the cup. "Here it is, the stuff that nightmares are made of," he told them. When Harry reached out to touch it, he tucked it away. "You break it, you pay for it."
"I have a feeling you could drop it from an airplane, and it wouldn't so much as dent," Harry told them.
"Not what I meant, but you're probably right," Spike told them. "So, you clearly didn't come here to try and take this thing by force of arms. Otherwise, you'd 've blown this place to kingdom come. Which means that you want more than just the bauble."
It was time to get down to business. "When you came to Sunnydale, I assume that Voldemort told you who was pulling the strings in town."
"You mean the blighter who last time I came to town, sent a welcoming party to make sure I didn't leave? Pretty much." Spike took out a cigarette. "I'd bite his head off if I hadn't been told that he'll probably just grow a new one."
"Here's your chance," Here came the hard sell. "The Mayor and Voldemort are holding Buffy and Faith hostage."
"If you're asking me to help save a Slayer, never mind both of them, you've come to the wrong vampire," Spike replied. "'Course, you could say to that to just about any undead, but especially me."
'You're not going to save them. You're going to kill them." He ignored Willow's huge intake of breath at that last comment. "At least, that's what you're going to tell Voldemort when you contact him."
Spike looked a little perplexed at this. "Why would he... oh, that's it. You want me to trade your little gold cup to Tommy Boy for their lives. "
"Um, Harry." Ron looked a little perplexed at this. "What about Hermione?"
"I'm coming to that," Harry said impatiently. "You're going to call him in about twenty minutes. While you're doing that, Ron and Willow are going to rescue Hermione."
"So basically I'm just your little bait and switch," Spike told them. "What makes you think Baldy won't just kill me on the spot?"
"Because he could've done that when you first met, and he didn't," Harry replied. "I'm assuming that's the reason you insulted him, and are still taking up space."
"Tommy doesn't like the stars." Drusilla, who had been eerily quiet for the last few minutes, spoke up. "He hates it when other people try to count them, and add them up wrong."
Harry was trying to interpret this when Spike spoke up. "Dru's been studying her Grimoire the last few weeks. The night before Mr. Clean's deformed twin showed, she cast a couple of spells that make us resistant to whatever magic he--- or any other wizard---- would use to kill a vampire."
Suddenly Harry was beginning to wish that they'd brought a Slayer with them.
"Now Long Tom knows more ways to kill a man than just about anybody, so I know, the only reason he hasn't dropped me or Dru yet is 'cause he thinks he can use us somewhere down the road." Spike looked at them. "I'm guessing that's why we're here."
It must have been the tension of the road because suddenly the visions he'd been having the last few months actually seemed to solidify. All of Voldemort's machinations around Sunnydale suddenly made a lot more sense.
Ron seemed to get it too, after a fashion, because he spoke up for the first time. "You're here the keep the Slayers busy while Voldemort grabbed up the cup."
"And instead, he has the Slayers and I have the Cup. Tell me the devil doesn't have a sense of humor."
"I know for sure this devil does," Willow suddenly seemed to realize what she had just said, and very quickly shut up.
"Knowing this, what makes you so sure I'm to be trusted? Slayer's been a splinter in my arse ever since I came here. And they want to kill me as bad as Voldy does."
"Buffy's been a pain," Harry countered. "As far as you're concerned, Faith is pretty reasonable. She was willing to make a deal last night. My guess is the offer's still good as far as she's concerned. "
'What are you talking about?" Willow asked.
Harry ignored her. So did Spike. "What makes you think Tom hasn't already popped his cork?" he asked instead.
"Because the Mayor's had Angel for hours, and he's still drawing breath, or whatever the hell you people do," Ron countered. "Can't guarantee that'll be true for much longer."
"You think that would cost me much sleep?" Spike demanded.
Harry would've pointed out that vampires needed to sleep about as much as they needed to breathe except that he didn't think that this argument would hold much water. Besides, he had gotten a little insight into this freak’s head.
"Actually, I think it would," Harry argued. "You vampires can literally hold grudges for centuries. And I think that considering how messy your last encounter with Angel was, you would be drinking yourself into a stupor for a very, very long time. This way, you get closure. How many soulless creatures get a chance for that?"
Spike just looked at Harry for several moments. Then he laughed robustly. "I hope I never end up on your bad side," he finally said with a dry chuckle. "I just have one little question: where are you going to be when all of this shakes down? Pretty sure Tommy even senses your presence, you will have maybe seconds to live."
"You just worry about yourself and Dru," Harry said feigning a self-confidence that wasn't there. " I have a feeling that's all that matters."
Spike looked at him for another long couple of moments. "Where exactly do you want this meeting of the Department of Doom to take place?" he asked again.
"Center of town. Five minutes after sunset." Harry told them. "It's just going to be you, Dru and Voldemort."
"You know as well as I do he'll never come alone," Spike reminded them.
"Yeah, well technically, you'll be lying too."
"It's almost expected of us in these situations," Spike reminded them. "There's no honor among----"
"Cold-blooded sociopaths?" Willow looked very intense right now. Even the vampires who were ostensibly guarding her looked a little nervous, as if they could see steam shooting out of her ears.
"Don't kid yourself, Red." Spike took the mostly smoked cigarette out of his mouth, and ground it into the floor. "Like the cobra told the frog, you knew what I was when you picked me up."
The expression on Willow's face didn't qualify as a resolve face or even angry. neither of which was going to do her much good in a den of vampires. She looked as if it was taking every measure of restraint to not start beating someone to a pulp, even though she wouldn't be able to give so much as a paper cut to anybody here. Finally, she managed to walk over to Harry and whisper: "May I have a word with you in private?"
Harry decided reminding her that privacy just didn't exist here would be a waste of time, and instead put up a Mufflato charm around the three of them.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?' she demanded furiously. "You can't just deliver Angel to him on a silver platter!"
"Do I have to remind you what happens if Voldemort takes possession of that Horcrux?" Harry countered.
"Your own vision told us Voldemort doesn't have a snowball's chance in a Hellmouth of doing anything with it!" Willow reminded him.
"Forget long term," Ron spoke up. "He will kill Buffy and Faith without a second thought. I don't even want to think of what will happen if the Death Eaters get their hands on Hermione. You're going to look me in the eye, and tell me that slaughterer is worth their lives?"
Willow had a lot of trouble coming up with an answer to that particular query. She struggled with it for a while, and finally said: "Buffy will never forgive you if we just hand him Angel. You really want to have an angry Slayer after you? Because when she finds out, she'll chase you to the ends of the earth."
"Even after everything he did last year?" Ron demanded.
A lot of the righteousness disappeared from Willow's face. Jenny Calendar was not something she had been completely able to let go. "We can't help whom we fall in love with," she finally said.
Had Harry and Ron really been as cold-blooded as they were trying to be with Angel, they would've said that the end of the world is a lousy time to deal with something as trivial as love. But Harry had been trying to pretend that he was only concerned with Faith's well-being because of who she was, not because of whatever it was that might be brewing between them. And if Ron were to tell them that he was just as afraid of what would happen to Ginny or his parents as he was about Hermione, Harry wouldn't believe it. Hell, Spike was probably going along with this mission because of whatever twisted thing it was that he felt for Drusilla, and there was no point in pretending otherwise.
The fact that they were in the middle of a war changed none of this. Hell, if anything, it made these feelings intensify, and if Harry couldn't admit that to himself, he sure as hell couldn't tell Willow this.
"That freak snowfall that happened at Christmas," he finally told her. "You think it was some kind of sign? Some kind of message from whoever it is running this circus that Angel's coming back was good, not evil?"
Willow thought this over for a moment. "I think so," she finally said.
"Well, maybe they'll send us another one." Harry knew that he was pressing his luck with that, because he quickly followed. "Remember that vision showing Wolfram & Hart? They gave Voldemort Drusilla's location, but refused to get him. Said he was going to be a player in later events."
"What are you trying---"
"Everything you can say about Drusilla and Spike is doubly true, if not more so for Angel, and if he really is as important as you and everyone else seems to think, he's not going to die in some back alley here."
Willow thought over what he had just said for a long several seconds, then finally spoke up. "You'd better hope you're right," she finally told him. "Because if you're wrong and something does happen to Angel, I will be the least of your problems. Buffy will flay you alive."
Harry had no doubt she could do it, but telling either of these powerful women--- and Willow was powerful, he was certain of that--- that Angel might end up being just another casualty of this war was not something he was prepared to do. Instead, he just nodded, and dropped the Mufflato spell. "You want to tell him or shall I?" he finally said.
Willow turned to Spike, who seemed only mildly curious about what had just unfolded before him. "Do what you have to," she finally said.
"Don't remember asking for your permission," Spike couldn't seem to resist sticking the needle in. "Or needing it."
"How exactly are you going to get to Voldemort?" Harry demanded. "I don't see any owls and I seriously doubt Voldemort carries a cell phone with him."
"I have no intention of calling Voldemort. The Mayor, on the other hand, he'll be interested in hearing from me," Spike reached for a nearby phone. "And Tommy did tell me that there's a sure way to reach him."
Harry wasn't sure that he believed him, until the phone rang.
"911? I'd like to report a recovery of stolen goods." There was a long pause. "Yes, yesterday evening, there was a break in at the warehouse district. A very valuable piece of artwork was taken. I believe it's a priority for the Sunnydale PD?"
Harry would have given anything to hear what was on the other end of that line.
"No, this particular request came from the property’s original owner." There was definite yelling on the other end; Harry could tell that much. "No, I think in an incident of this magnitude, the man who lost it should be the one to return it. Which I would be more than willing to do... in exchange for a couple of birds that City Hall managed to get a hold of." There was a very long burst of static. "Name? William? No, just William. You know, like the Prince."
"Why the hell is he talking in code?" Ron demanded. "I know what he's planning, and I barely follow."
Apparently, this wasn't a problem for the people on the other end. "Well, due to my skin condition, I can't make the transaction until after dark. Tell the man in charge that I will return the property at 5:20 outside the Town Square. Yes, I see. No, I'll come alone. Just make sure that the owners do as well. So glad we understand one another." He hung up.
"You see, contrary to popular opinion, the Sunnydale PD is not manned by Inspector Clouseau types." Spike answered the unasked question. " Many of them are too smart for their own good. In order to make sure that Sunnydale doesn't appear on the radar of national law enforcement, things have to be done a certain way. The Mayor has apparently spent the last century making sure that there are just enough people on staff who will manage to keep this place from turning into New York in the seventies. Those are the people who I just delivered the message too."
"Are they skilled in decoding the Sphinx's riddle?" Harry countered.
Spike just smiled and walked over to a piece of electronic equipment so rusted out Harry had been sure until now it was broken. "This is a police scanner," he told them. "Tuned to the correct frequency, anybody who knows what they're doing can have a listen in too whatever the fuzz is doing in a ten mile radius. Last night, your little burglary made half the coppers in this town leave their usual patrols for 'gangs on PCP' and look for that particular artifact. You couldn't have attracted the Mayor's attention more if you'd decided to immolate yourself in the middle of Sunnydale High."
"You should know," Willow blurted out before hastily shutting up.
Spike ignored the comment, and turned the scanner on. He didn't have to wait a whole minute before a voice came blaring over the system. "This is Hobson. Tell the Chief we have reliable intel on where to find that 615 we've been jumping on for the last eighteen hours."
"And the crowd goes wild," Spike said almost casually.
"What makes you think the Mayor won't come to this little meeting with every vampire he can get his hands on?" Ron argued.
"He probably will. As you probably know, there isn't a great deal of honor among us 'cold-blooded sociopaths'". Spike used the same air quotes he had with 'gangs on PCP'. "But propriety, or lacking that the appearance of propriety, is one of the things that Wilkins believes in with every fiber of what he still calls his soul. He'll keep his word, up to a point. Just like he knows I will, up to a point."
Harry found this whole psychology very questionable, especially considering the source, but realized that they couldn't waste time arguing. Harry looked at his watch. "It's just past four now. You and Willow had better hurry, if you want this to have any chance of working."
Ron could've argued that even with all of these deals with the devil, their chances of emerging victorious from this were still little better than slim to none. But he knew that Hermione had to come out of this okay. Any outcome other than that would be unacceptable, not even to be mentioned. He simply turned to his fellow red-headed wizard-in-training, and said: "Take my hand."
"I thought you weren't as good an Apparator," she told him.
"I can get us to outside City Hall," Ron replied. "It's how I'm going to avoid the dozens of evil creatures around the place that has me worried."
"Has me worried too," Willow paused. "I shouldn't have told you that."
Ron gave a small smile. "Too late now."
"How long do you think it'll be before they move?" Willow asked.
"Thirty minutes, and remember, you are the rescue party. No one left to come get you if you get caught too."
"No added pressure, right?"
"The fate of the magicking world may depend on this working," Ron reminded her. "I don't know how much more pressure could be added."
Willow walked over, and they both popped out of sight.
Spike looked at Harry. "Really got the whole Light Brigade mentality, don't they?"
This was second time in a week someone had quoted Tennyson to him, and the shock was not a pleasant one this time. "I don't like sending people in danger."
"Neither did Patton or Montgomery; they had no problem doing it," Spike countered. "I'm not even sure the Slayer's have this kind of fortitude."
"I'm just doing what I have to do. I don't like it."
Spike gave a small grin. "You keep telling yourself that." The grin disappeared. "Well, now that the red-shirts have left, you just have a few minor difficulties still to overcome. Such as how you, Drusilla and myself are going to overcome an enemy that can't be killed, and avoid actually giving up the cup."
Harry's answer was to pick up a sheet of metal about the same size as the Horcrux and cast a Mirago spell on it.
"Can you pull a rabbit out of your hat?" Spike asked snidely. "You really think that's going to fool Voldemort?"
"Hopefully, by the time, he gets it, we'll have put enough distance between us and the Hellmouth," Harry argued, with a confidence he didn't feel.
"He's had this thing for decades, Potter, you honestly think it'll give him more than a few minutes of trouble?" Spike was a bastard, but he was a realistic one.
"Which is why we're going to provide him with enough of a distraction to keep him occupied before he has to blow town." Harry argued. "You have a problem with that?"
"Long as I get my hooks into Angel, I don't give a rat's arse what you do to this town," Spike countered. "You got any plans how we're going to do that?"
"I have the beginnings of one," Harry told him. "What concerns me is that you follow through."
"Last time you made a deal like this with Buffy, you welshed. Big time." Harry looked at Spike. "You going to repeat history?"
"What are you going to do?" Spike gloated.
"Actually, I figured I'd lock you in a room with no windows, and Buffy and Faith." Now Harry was gaining bravado. "Think they'll be as reasonable as I will?"
This did seem to reach Spike because the cockiness in his manner abated a bit. "I repeat, what is the plan?"
Harry looked at Drusilla. "She's lucid?"
"If she were, you'd be dead," Spike told him bluntly. "What do you want her to do?"
"The only thing that these people fear is power," Harry replied grimly. "We're going to make enough of a show of it to call a draw."